NL couple hopes to expand their family by second adoption
By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– The Grimes family of North Liberty has a lot of love to go around.
So much so that they are in the process of adopting a second child from Ethiopia.
On Friday, Aug. 22, fellow church members and friends of the family will host a spaghetti supper and art sale at the North Liberty First United Methodist Church, 85 N. Jones Blvd., from 6 until 7:30 p.m. to help make this family circle even more complete.
Shadley and Dan Grimes had two beautiful daughters, Eden and Elly, but when they talked about expanding their family, adoption was already on their minds and in their hearts.
“We were drawn toward adoption, but we weren’t sure what the first steps were,” said Shadley.
That first step turned into a very long journey; the process for American families to adopt internationally is rigorous, time-consuming and very expensive. It entails extensive background checks, a thorough home study, piles of paperwork and even physical check-ups for members of the adopting family.
It took almost two years before the couple was able to travel to Ethiopia in 2009 to gather into their arms their new son, Esias. He was a year old when they arrived, living in an orphanage and experiencing serious physical ailments they needed to address right away.
“Our original plan of easing his transition (gradually) from the orphanage to us changed,” said Shadley. “We took him immediately to our guest house and were able to get him antibiotics.”
God and good fortune were on their side; the Grimes were staying with an Ethiopian family who helped secure the medical treatment Esias needed until he was well enough to take the long trip to his new home.
During that one-week stay, the Grimes became aware of the work their home-stay couple was doing to help other children in Africa who need assistance, providing much-needed interventions to keep them in their own homes and out of orphanages.
“We could see that orphanage life was so hard,” said Shadley. “(Esias) wasn’t touched or interacted with enough. There is definitely warmth in Ethiopian orphanages, but there are so many children they just can’t do everything. There’s not enough food, not enough arms to pick up crying babies. So the children learn not to cry.”
“We became aware that we needed to do more than just adopt one child,” said Dan. “So when we came back, we worked on getting our church connected with them.”
The organization is Yezelalem Minch, and when the Grimes returned from Africa in 2009, they began telling others about the work of this grass-roots organization.
“We were overwhelmed with Esias’ needs at the time, but we both were so stirred (by the conditions in Ethiopia),” said Shadley. “We had to get the word out.”
“We can’t take any credit,” Dan added. “It was a holy spirit kind of thing. We just opened our mouths, and the people of the church just jumped on it. It felt like we were being pulled along. We didn’t have to push.”
Since then, Parkview Church in Iowa City has partnered with Yezelalem Minch. Dan and fellow church members have returned each year to Ethiopia on mission trips, have met the children they’ve sponsored, and the congregation has collected donations to help other children living in poverty.
“The people of Parkview Church have sponsored over 250 children, and have sent over $100,000 in a period of five years,” said Dan.
Back home in North Liberty, once Esias’ physical condition stabilized, it became apparent that his special needs would be life-long. During his first 18 months, Esias was in and out of University of Iowa hospitals, undergoing multiple surgeries, dealing with feeding tubes and experiencing seizures. But Dan and Shadley, armed with their powerful faith, the conviction of God’s calling, and the forces of the best medical care available, were undaunted.
“When you have a child with special needs, people assume you are some sort of saint. They say things like ‘he is so blessed to have you,’” said Shadley. “No. It’s the other way around. Esias has blessed us, just like the girls blessed us, because he is an incredible kid and we get to be his parents. That’s just… cool.”
So when the Grimes eventually came to the conclusion they wanted to adopt another child, all the challenges that come with special needs seemed manageable.
“Kids with special needs are often passed up for adoption,” said Shadley. More often, adoptive families want young, healthy female children. The Grimes, including Eden and Elly, were on board to welcome a new family member who is older, male and vision impaired.
That’s how Dani (pronounced Dah-NEE) became referred to the Grimes family. He lives in a school institution in northern Ethiopia. Since he is nearing the age of 16, it has become imperative that the Grimes complete Dani’s adoption before his birthday next April; otherwise, immigration laws make the adoption process even more difficult, perhaps even impossible.
Because Dani had a previous experience of having an adoption pledge withdrawn, the Ethiopian adoption agency has sent the Grimes reports, videos and photographs, but have not allowed the Grimes to communicate their intent to adopt Dani just yet.
“We sent him a letter and told him we heard about him, that we were praying for him, and that we think he’s really a neat kid,” said Shadley. “He knows we exist. Other than that, we didn’t say anything else. We’ve just pored over the videos.”
Dan and Shadley and other Parkview members also serve on a church committee that serves as a resource for other families thinking of adoption.
“Adoption is not a choice for everyone, but if it is the right choice, there are definitely good resources out there to help you prepare,” said Shadley.
Meanwhile, Eden and Elly are eagerly preparing to welcome another sibling.
“I’m sort of nervous, because I don’t know if he is going to like his new home as much as he liked his old home, but I am going to be very nice to him. I am looking forward to him being my new brother,” said Elly. “I pray for him every night.”
Eden said having a special brother since she was seven years old has made her feel special, too.
“It’s been really nice, my friends think it’s really cool,” said Eden. “Sometimes it’s hard in public, because people can give you weird glances, and you get those kinds of people who say things like, ‘what is he doing with you?’, but I think it’s good that adoption is there. I like having Esias here.”
The Aug. 22 fundraiser is a supper featuring Zio Johnos spaghetti, homemade desserts, and opportunities to purchase art from local artists, including Things with Wings. Proceeds will go to Dani’s adoption and post-adoption expenses.